Politics of new provinces

Published: May 29, 2019

These days we are once again witnessing a renewed debate on the creation of new provinces in the country. But what we mostly see in this debate is political rhetoric laden with parochial sentiment, ethnic prejudices and linguistic biases.

The creation of new provinces in the form of smaller administrative units should have always been welcomed. But here the power wielders have their own reasons to oppose it. Over a period of time most of the political parties have been reduced to regional status and are, therefore, unwilling to share a piece in their cake.

However, the PML-N in April introduced a constitutional bill in the National Assembly seeking creation of South Punjab and Bhawalpur provinces. Recently, the MQM-P reacting to the prime minister’s opposition to a new province in Sindh declared that they would introduce a bill in the National Assembly for a new province in Sindh. “It is up to the PTI to reject or support the bill, but if they [PTI] choose to reject it, they will see the consequences in the next elections,” said Aamir Khan.

Concentration and not devolution of power has, since the beginning, been the underlying philosophy of the successive governments regulating the legislative and administrative business to govern this country. It is a deceptive claim to argue that the 18th Amendment led to decentralisation of power.

Yes, it deprived the Federation much of its authority, but turned provinces and the ruling clique there into politicians with bloated egos. It was this love for centralisation of power and authority that instead of carving a separate province of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the establishment preferred to merge it with K-P.

At present, there are demands for Bhawalpur, South Punjab or Saraikistan provinces in Punjab; a new province in Sindh comprising urban areas; a Hazara province out of K-P; and full provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan as Karakoram Province or Balawaristan. Smaller administrative units, contrary to the prevalent view, not only ensure good governance but help strengthen the Federation. Besides, the boundaries of provinces or the federating units should neither be viewed as sacred nor part of some heavenly scheme.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2019.

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